A highly condensed extract from my two blogs: Paris sightseeing tips

Paris sightseeing tips from LeeAnn

The two blogs mentioned are this one and my first one, leeannshere.blogspot.com.   Each of them contains lots of text and photos that follow this first longish post --  If you're interested, click on the dated menus at right or on "older posts" at the bottom.

A PDF of this post has also been posted on the EDIS (Emily Dickinson International Society) Facebook group, along with a separate PDF with some tips on getting from the CDG airport to Paris.



These tips are not meant to replace a good guide book.  For that I would recommend Rick Steve’s Paris guide.  I may give short shrift to the major attractions, and I describe some off-the-beaten-path destinations that you may not have time to get to during a short stay.  I am not big on shopping, so I won’t be talking about that, nor about places to eat (though I do like to eat).

I want to put in a plug for "The Paris Mapguide", a map book by Michael Middleditch.  It covers most of the city in great detail, with many useful notes.  However, it doesn't include some of the outer regions (including CIUP!), so I had a separate city map to cover those.

The city map I bought at a Paris bookstore, and it was one of the collection of blue official-looking publications.  It is called “Tourist Map”, but it covers the outer reaches of the city and  the close outlying areas much more thoroughly than most maps really intended for tourists.

Topics are covered in the following order:

Basic tips                             
Finding a bathroom               
Left bank and islands            
Right bank                             
Surrounding area                   


Some basic tips for getting around

I found the Metro and RER easy to navigate (if you can handle stairs).  A Metro map, such as the one in the above-noted map book, helps a lot.  The signs in the stations note the terminus of the line to denote the direction, and more detailed signs list all the stops, so it's usually not difficult to get on the right train.  You can transfer as many times as you need from one line to another, or to the RER, or vice versa (though a standard ticket just goes within Zone 1 on the RER).  A standard ticket is good for Metro, bus, tramway, and Zone 1 rides on the RER (i.e., within the Boulevard Peripherique, in general).  

You can buy tickets in the stations or in convenience stores called Tabacs.  (They have funny red lozenge-shaped signs.)  A "carnet" is a book of ten tickets.  Metro stations are not always staffed, and the machines generally require a chip-and-PIN card.  (Chip-and-signature cards from the US may not always work.  If the machine asks for a PIN, you can try entering 0000 or just bypassing that step.  You can also call your bank ahead of time and ask them to assign a PIN to your card.) 

The bus is fun (except in heavy traffic or when it's hot), has fewer steps to climb, provides a generally calmer experience, and is much more scenic, but it is slower (much slower during rush hour).  It uses the same tickets as the Metro.  You just validate your ticket at the front of the bus and sit down.   (Note that the ticket is good for just one bus ride, unlike on the Metro,)

Navigating bus lines is also little trickier than the Metro; I bought the blue Bus Guide book in a Tabac and would plan my route in advance.  (A Tabac is a little convenience store which sells a lot more than tobacco.  )

Remember that on the RER, unlike the Metro, you usually have to put the ticket through the turnstile when you exit, since the RER goes way outside of the city and can cost much more than the standard price (when you go outside Zone 1).  On the Metro, hang on to your ticket, but you generally will not need it to exit.  After you exit, it’s a good idea to discard it, since the used tickets look a lot like unused tickets.

Tramway:  You can't transfer from the Metro to the Tramway on the same ticket (nor from the RER; only from the bus).  Also, my map showed zones for the Tramway, and I was concerned about whether my standard fare ticket would be enough, but apparently it was...I guess.  There was no turnstile at the end. 

Strolling around:  I learned that when you see a little dark green (I think) sign with the words "Mairie de Paris" on it, that meant you were at a public space (i.e. a park) -- it wasn't always obvious otherwise.  So you can go in and sit down if you like.

I also got in the habit of scanning buildings for plaques indicating what prominent person(s) lived there at one time.  There are quite a few of them in Paris! 

Finding a bathroom (les toilettes):

There are for-pay public restrooms just east of the Place de la Concorde; just behind the statue of Charlemagne near Notre-Dame (stairs going down); and at a couple of locations in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The price is approaching the euro mark here and there, but it's worth it if you need it (and they are clean and maintained).  There are free restrooms at the Jardin de Plantes, the Parc Monceau, north entrance (in the 8th – beautiful park!), the Parc de Bercy (in the 12th), probably a few other public parks... and at the Square Suzanne Buisson in Montmartre.  It’s wise to carry your own supplies…

Shopping centers/department stores are not always as helpful as one might expect.  The BHV (near the Hotel de Ville) had restrooms only on the 7th floor, and they were closed!  I couldn’t find any public restrooms at Les Halles.  However, I did manage to find a restroom in the Starbucks, and to tailgate my way in inconspicuously without having to buy anything.  It’s harder to do that at those charming sidewalk cafes (which are made less charming by all the smoking in the outdoor seating areas).  I think you are pretty much expected to buy something to use the restroom (unless, perhaps, you have a small child or are really desperate… I don’t know).

Don't be afraid of the free public toilets ("Sanisettes", I think is the official name).  I observed other people coming out of them unscathed, but I admit I didn't use one myself until I was in the company of my sister (so I could scream for help if I got trapped!).  But eventually I was using them on my own.  They go through a wash cycle after each use, so don’t jump right in after someone exits—wait for the green light.  The first use can be a little mystifying, but they work.  The only one that was a bit unpleasant was near the Arc du Triomphe, so maybe being near a major tourist site is a hazard, but I survived even that one.  There is an app called, appropriately, "Paris Toilet", that tells you where they are! ...though occasionally it points to one that isn't there or is closed... just go to the next one, I guess.  




Left Bank and Ile de la Cité

5th arrondissement

·  Don’t miss the Jardin du Luxembourg!!   (It’s at the RER stop of the same name.)
There is a lovely fountain, which I believe was featured in "Gigi" (with more dramatic lighting), at the very base of the “panhandle” (the southern end).  

The magnificent red brick building nearby is the Institute of Art and Archaeology (l'institut d'art et d'archeologie) of the University of Paris.  

·  During 2014 I visited the Cluny Museum (official name:  Musée National du Moyen-Age – Thermes de Cluny), one of the most underrated museums in Paris (in my opinion), three times! -- with various visitors.  It is also a good place to buy museum passes, since the lines are usually not long (as I said, underrated).  The only real crowds to contend with are usually groups of kids going through on school trips.

We found some of the medieval art to be surprisingly modern.   Its best known works are the "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries.  (Look for the “concerned bunny” motif.)

The Cluny is built on the site of Roman baths, dating to about 200 A.D.  Inside the "frigidarium" are fragments of the oldest known man-made structures in Paris, columns dating to ~ 23 A.D.

You can also see, in a room nearby, the original heads of the "kings of Judah" from Notre-Dame cathedral, which were knocked off by the revolutionaries, who took them to be kings of the royal variety.  They were found in 1977 during a construction project near the Opera Garnier.

And you can see the horn from a narwhal (in room 18 or 19?).  (I think there is a tie-in to the unicorns there, as well as to an exhibit of bone and ivory carvings.)  It is surprisingly long.  Yes, the Cluny is full of surprises!  You should go!

·  Everyone I've been to Paris with (nearly) has visited Pippa, a great little bookstore/publisher/art gallery near the Cluny museum (25bis rue de Sommerard).  There is a lot of cat-related content, which first drew my attention. But there are beautiful books on many subjects, all independently published.  It has been run for 10 years by a marvelous woman who is also a writer, publisher, and humanitarian.  There is a nice article about the store and the owner at https://parisianfields.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/pippa-pouch-and-a-paris-publisher/ (someone else's blog).  

·  In the same area (at 60 rue des Ecoles) is a nice coffee shop, Coutume Instituutti (it’s in the back of the Finnish Institute), that is more in the American style than the classic French sidewalk café.  You walk up to the counter and order rather than taking a seat and waiting for someone to come over. 
Speaking of sidewalk cafés, and you will probably want to try this very Parisian experience -- when you select a table, don’t sit at one with silverware unless you are going to order food.

·  The Galeries d'Anatomie Comparée et de Paleontologie is one of the collection of museums at the Jardin des Plantes (which is in itself a beautiful place to visit!).  It is usually not very crowded. 
This collection of skeletons, other body parts, and fossils (including plants) dates back to 1898.  There are more than a thousand skeletons, from nearly every (living) vertebrate you can think of, as well as some extinct ones.

The place is wild.  The skeletons at the entrance are arranged all facing the same direction, so they appear to be on the march!  The cetacean exhibit is quite impressive.

·  The museum of geology is also found at the Jardin des Plantes.   The exhibit size is much smaller than that of the Galeries d'Anatomie Comparée et de Paleontologie, but I enjoyed it very much. In fact, it was just the right size to give you a lot to look at without wearing you out, and the price was right too:  six euro.

I loved the combination of aesthetics and science!  In addition to the specimens themselves, there was a lot of good information available in both printed and video format (some in basic French).

·  Across from the Jardin de Plantes (on rue Geoffroy Sainte-Hilaire) is the tea room of the Grand Mosque.  There is no fee to get in, and there is a nice outdoor seating area where a number of people were drinking mint tea or Turkish coffee (no coffee with milk of any kind available).  The mint tea was delicious. There is a restaurant as well, and a hamam (Turkish bath), but we did not take advantage of those.  The mosque itself was pretty quiet.  You pay a few euros to just walk around, with some areas being off limits to tourists. 

·  The Pantheon is best known for being the resting place for many illustrious men, and one woman (Marie Curie), but it's also worth seeing for its splendid architecture and the numerous murals and sculptures on the main level, most dedicated to historical figures and events.  Several of the murals tell the story of St. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris; the Pantheon was originally a church dedicated to her. 

A wall was dedicated to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of Le Petit Prince, who disappeared while flying a reconnaissance mission during WWII.

There was also a plaque dedicated to unknown artists, rather like a tomb of the unknown soldier. 

Foucault's Pendulum, which he used to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, normally hangs from the dome of the Pantheon, but it had been placed in storage for the duration of the repairs to the dome.
After exploring the main level, we headed downstairs to "the crypt", which was rather maze-like and spooky!  Among the people interred there are Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie and Pierre Curie, Louis Braille, and Victor Hugo.  Many of the tombs had displays nearby dedicated to the person's life and accomplishments; Hugo's included illustrations of the huge crowds that accompanied his casket as it was carried though the city to the Pantheon.

·  Very near the Pantheon is the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, and it contains the tomb of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.  The doors of this church are seldom open, unlike some others that make it pretty obvious that you can go inside, but it is well worth a visit. 

·  The museum at the Curie institute (not far from the Pantheon) has limited hours (Wed-Sat 1-5) but is free.  There was an art-related exhibit going on, the poster for which drew my attention, but I found the permanent exhibits more compelling, being a chemist by training.  

·  The area of the Latin Quarter bounded by Rue St Jacques, Boulevard St Germain, Rue Dauphine, and the Seine can be pretty touristy, but you have to check it out.  Shakespeare and Company is just a little ways east of Rue St Jacques (actually, at that point it is Rue du Petit Pont), facing the river. 
I overheard a tour guide telling a story about the buildings on Rue Suger, which is a little south of Place St. Michel.  I didn't catch all of it, but from what I gathered, some long-past encroachment by the river had made it necessary for the street to be built up to avoid flooding, silt deposits, etc.  Most of the buildings had logically raised the level of their doors and windows facing onto the street as a result-- but one notable exception is now a Japanese restaurant.  I don’t remember the name, but it’s easy to spot.

6th arrondissement

Known for famous cafes, the church of St Germain, art galleries, shopping… 
I checked out the Musée des lettres et manuscrits on Boulevard St Germain.  I saw manuscripts (or portions thereof) by Charlotte Bronte (not Jane Eyre), Rimbaud, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Marie Curie; letters signed by Napoleon, Monet, Magritte, Hemingway, Zola, Sand, Mann, Tolstoy, Wilde, and Einstein; a sketch book by Chagall, a different sort of sketch book by Edison, drawings of le Petit Prince by St. Exupery, and musical scores by Mozart, Debussy, and Schumann, among others.  They also had a copy of the "Declaration des droits de l'homme en societe" drafted during the revolution.

7th arrondissement

·  You can wait in line for hours to go up to the top of the Tour Eiffel, or you can buy a ticket in advance, for a designated date and time, and wait not so long.  Unfortunately, they sell out pretty far in advance during tourist season, so it’s probably already too late.  I went online in mid-March (in 2014), and the first day I could get a ticket was my last full day there:  June 10th. 

·  Check out Rue Cler nearby.

·  I went to the d'Orsay with both of my sisters (Ellen and Susan).  The policy there is no photos, not even of the building (meaning the interior, of course).  The stated purpose is to avoid gridlock, i.e. at "photo op" spots.  The building (a converted train station) is very striking, so it's tempting.  Naturally, people were taking photos anyway, but not that many.  Perhaps if it gets out of hand, they'll start enforcing the policy. 

In any case, it's a don't-miss museum, especially if you like the impressionists.   You’ll have to wait in line even with the Museum Pass, but the Pass makes it easier.  If you go in the afternoon, the lines will probably be shorter.

·  Another distinctive museum in the 7th (near the Tour Eiffel) is the Musée du Quai de Branly, a museum of “primitive” art.   Many of the main exhibits are in very large rooms with subdued lighting, except for the lighting of the pieces on display.  (There is no problem finding your way around, however.) 

·  Then there is the Rodin Museum on Rue de Varenne, a very posh street.  Not too far from the museum, heading east, on the same side of the street, is the former home of Edith Wharton—and farther east, the present residence of the Prime Minister.  

·  Heading in the opposite direction on Rue de Varenne, you come to the Invalides, a former military hospital which is now a military museum.  Nice looking building.  I never went inside, though.
If you search, you can see (barely) the original tombstone of Napoleon, from his exile on the island of St. Helena.  It is tucked away by the (west?) side of the church, surrounded by bushes.  You can see it through the glass as you walk down a hallway.  (This is also pointed out in Rick Steve's guidebook.).  It bears little resemblance to the grandiose setup inside the museum, his final resting place.  I don't believe I saw any reference to it, or any way to approach it. 

·  The bridge over the Seine adjacent to the Invalides, the Pont d’Alexandre, takes the prize for the most beautiful bridge in Paris.

14th arrondissement

·  You can go to the top of the Tour Montparnasse.   It is a touristy thing to do, but it does give you a great view, since the Tour Montparnasse is the second-tallest building within the Périphérique, and it's a view without the Tour Montparnasse in it!  It has gotten a bit pricey, though: 15 euro.

The visitors' entrance is around the back on the right side (Rue de l'Arrivée), assuming you start out in front of the train station, facing south.  It's pretty easy to spot once you get close.  There was a pretty big crowd, since it was a Friday and a pretty sunny day, so I waited about 20 minutes to go up.  Once you are on top you can stay as long as you like.  

One thing was very odd about the entrance process:  Almost immediately after leaving the elevator, each party is led in front of a camera, with a large kelly-green backdrop behind you.  I considered asking if this was required (I don't see how it could be), but rather than hold things up I just stood there stone-faced and then moved on.  I was then handed some kind of receipt that said purchase wasn't necessary...!  I hope not!  But then I saw some people posing as if it were for a souvenir.  Who would want that ugly green backdrop, though?  I found out later that a fake backdrop (probably of the Tour Eiffel) would be pasted in behind you.  I guess they must sell some of them, or people would not bother to pose.

·  I stopped at the Cimitiere du Montparnasse afterwards.  I had already found Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir on a previous visit; they are near the border of a path, so are easy to find.  However, I finally gave up on Camille Saint-Saens, and didn't try to find Guy de Maupassant.  When they are in the middle of a large cluster and all you have is a dot on a map, it can be a matter of luck finding them.

·  I walked along the southern edge of the cemetery towards the Place Denfert-Rochereau.  There are some nice buildings around there, and an impressive lion.  He was not far from a long line of people waiting to get in to see the catacombs.... I'll pass on that.  The lion is the Lion de Belfort, a reproduction of a huge sandstone sculpture near a castle in Belfort, France.  It was built as a tribute to those who defended the castle, led by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau, during the Siege of Belfort in the Franco-Prussian War.

·  The Parc Montsouris (right next to CIUP!) is a beautiful park.  If you have seen the film "Paris Je T'Aime", you may remember the last segment featuring a postal worker from Denver, a very game woman exploring Paris on her own (like me!).  I believe that the final scene, where she realizes she is in love with the city, was set in this park.  I was excited to see lots of new (to me) birds in this park. 
There are some nice little neighborhoods tucked away near the park.  One of them (just a few small intersecting streets) was called "Cité des Fleurs".   (Look for Rue des Iris on google.)

One thing I've noticed about these little village-like neighborhoods in the outer areas of the city is that cats are more likely to be out and about!  And indeed, I saw two in the Cité des Fleurs.

Ile de la Cité

·  I had admired the exterior of Notre-Dame many times, and I'd taken a number of photos, but I had always been reluctant to stand in the long lines snaking through the Place du Parvis Notre-Dame to get inside.  Fortunately, there is a pretty easy solution, which is to go early in the morning.  I got there about 8 am (not that terribly early), on a Friday, and there were only a few people inside, and no line.  (Even if there is a bit of a line, it moves pretty fast.)

·  At the far eastern end of the Ile, you can see two little windows at the bottom of the quay (well, you can see them from the Pont de la Tournelle, the next bridge over).  These are part of a holocaust memorial.  It's quite well hidden (you go down steps from the surface), and was it is small but very moving.  The docent at the entrance said that photos were ok "for yourself, not for the internet". 

·  At the other end of the Ile is the Place Dauphine.  It faces the Palais de Justice (French Supreme Court).  It's a very pretty and surprisingly quiet little place!   (The Vedettes de Pont Neuf – one of those boat tours of the Seine – depart from close to here.)

·  If you go to Ste. Chapelle to see the stained glass windows (recommended), don’t get in line to go to court by mistake!  The two lines are right next to each other.  Also, if you have a Museum Pass, you should be able to go right to the front of the line.

·  The Ile St Louis is also nice to stroll around.  If you see a gilded balcony facing the right bank, that is the Hotel de Lauzon, where Baudelaire once lived.


The Right Bank

1st arrondissement

(Note:  I’m not always sure of the exact borders between the 1st through 4th arrondissements, so some of the sights below may have been placed in the wrong sector.) 

·  The Louvre is so huge that it would take several visits to take in everything.  The museum map will show you where all the star attractions are.

I recommend going in the evening (e.g. on Wednesday) to avoid huge crowds, and to go to the "Tabac" in the underground Carrousel mall (accessed from the Rue de Rivoli) to buy your ticket.  The first time I did this, there was no line, and we were able to then go directly upstairs into the museum.  However, the second time, I had to follow a rather confusing route all the way outside again to go in through the pyramid.  So it was a little more trouble than before, but probably still faster than standing in line to buy my ticket at the pyramid.

·  I also visited the Orangerie, which has a fine collection of impressionists.  It has a no-photo policy for the large Monet water lily paintings, but not for the rest of the museum.   I went in the afternoon, and there was not much of a line at all. 

·  The Palais-Royale was built in 1639 as the residence of Cardinal Richelieu (it was then known as the Palais-Cardinal) and was later home to much nobility and royalty, including the young Louis XIV and his mother, Anne of Austria. 

The Palais was undergoing a lot of renovation during my visit last year, so I went back to see how things were looking now.  This was my first view of the striped columns that were installed in 1986 by a conceptual artist, Daniel Buren.  They were controversial at the time, and I agree that they look out of place, though some people do like to stand on them, or lean against them.

·  I neglected to go look at the gardens in the back.  I was curious to see the Galerie Vero-Dodat, which is nearby, and which I had seen in pictures several times.  --It was looking a little empty, with a number of vacant shops; maybe it is the time of year...?  

2nd arrondissement

·  I stopped by the Church of St. Eustache, which is just north of Les Halles.  It's a beautiful building:  I saw a few people disappearing into the right side, so I approached, found an inconspicuous "Entree" sign, and entered.  Wikipedia says that "With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France". 

·  The tower (tour) Jean Sans Peur [not a big tourist draw, but I liked it] is the last remaining structure of the Hotel de Bourgogne (where "hotel" roughly translates as a mansion or estate house).  The tower, which is open to the public but has rather limited hours, was featured in the book Metronome by Laurent Deutsch, which I studied at the Alliance Francaise in Portland.  It includes certain features which I was keen to see in person.  There is a spiral staircase inside the tower, with each landing leading to one or two rooms with exhibits and commentary.  (The staff very kindly gave me a bound English translation of the commentary which I was able to carry around with me.)  The landing that is the third from the top has a remarkable vaulted roof featuring sculpted spreading tree branches.

3rd arrondissement

·  My next destination was the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Industry), in the 3rd arrondissement.   There is some nice architecture, including a corner tower which was saved from possible demolition by the efforts of Victor Hugo, among others (according to the book Metronome by Laurent Deutsch).

·  Then I finally got to the see the Arts et Metiers metro station, which was redesigned in 1994, to commemorate the bicentenary of the Conservatoire, in a style said to be reminiscent of the science fiction works of Jules Verne.  I have read that it really has copper paneling.  Go see it!

·  The museum associated with the National Conservatory of Arts and Industry houses a collection of scientific instruments and displays dating back to 1794.  It's one of those museums in Paris that you usually don't have to stand in line for (especially on a weekday), but it's worth a visit if you are interested in science and/or engineering.  I found many of the displays fascinating, but there is quite a lot to see, and towards the end I was cruising through pretty quickly... though I suppose that describes my experience at the Louvre as well. 

(If you like audio guides, be sure to ask.  They apparently have them, judging from the little orange icons, but I saw no sign of them at the ticket counter, and I didn't feel like going back.)

The collection included a large display of items from the laboratory of Antoine Lavoisier, the "father of modern chemistry".   The notes pointed out that he was quite well off financially and was thus able to afford the very precise instrumentation (by the standards of the day) needed to carry out his work.

I did want to see the Foucault's pendulum, which is housed in a former church (along with other large displays, such as automobiles and airplanes!).  Apparently this room is featured in Umberto Eco's novel of the same name.  The Pantheon normally has an even longer pendulum, since its dome is much higher, but it has been in storage for over a year while the building is being renovated.

4th arrondissement

Also known as the Marais (the swamp!), which is just a great neighborhood to walk around in.

·  On my first visit to the Musée Carnavalet, many of the rooms had been closed.  I gave it another try (it's free) and this time knew to look at the very inconspicuous sheet of paper near the entrance that tells which rooms are open.  (You can't even say it's "posted"; it's just sitting there on a table.  I even had to turn it around to face me to read it.)  The rooms I had missed before were open, so I proceeded.

The museum's shtick (not a French word) is that it tells history though art (mainly paintings, but also some busts and sculpture), along with a model or two.  It's a unique place.  Where else would you find a STOVE in the form of the Bastille??

·  Some of the original stones from the Bastille remain, though they are not located at the original site.  They have been moved a little ways to the southwest.   More specifically, they are in a little park near the Sully Moreland Metro stop.  There is nothing really drawing attention to the stones other than a tiny inconspicuous plaque.   (Also look for the statue of the poet Rimbaud, leaning on his ankles, across the street.)  There are also some Bastille stones in the Bastille Metro station, on the landing for line 5, I believe.

·  The Hotel de Sully is on Rue Saint Antoine, and you can go right back into the courtyard.  If you go all the way to the back, on the right side, there is a little doorway that takes you right into the Place des Vosges -- very handy!   The Place des Vosges is a very popular gathering spot.  Sitting on the lawn is allowed!  And it is surrounded by beautiful apartments and, on the ground level, several restaurants and a number of interesting galleries.  In one corner is Victor Hugo's apartment, which is now a museum.  I visited at a later date, and while I didn't find it a great source for learning about Hugo's life and work, the rooms were interesting. 

·  The Rue de Rosiers is good for street food.  I encountered a place called "L'As du Fallafel", which I had heard about, and which had a big line in front.  But there is a crepe place on Rue Mouffetard (in the 5th) which always has a big line in front, and when I finally tried it, it was no big deal.  So, even if the Yelp reviews for this place said it had the world's greatest falafel, it's still just falafel, and I wasn't going to stand in that line.  So I went to a place down the street with a much shorter line and got a curry chicken pita which was perfectly fine.  

·  Also look for the Forney Library (Hôtel de Sens), near the Quai des Célestins, and not too far away, a wall bordering the playground next to the Lycée Charlemagne.  This wall is the largest surviving portion of the wall built around the city (as it existed then), as ordered by Philippe Auguste, at the beginning of the 13th century.  

8th arrondissement

·  The Parc de Monceau is a beautiful little park (featured in Gigi and probably in other films).  Look for the colonnade.  There are free public restrooms near the north entrance, but bring your own supplies (always advised).

·  The Musée Jacquemart-André on Boulevard Haussmann is in fact the one-time home of an obscenely wealthy (apparently) couple, Edouard Andre and Nelie Jacquemart, who were avid art collectors.  I didn't make it there during my first stay in Paris--but I recently read that it was used as Gaston's home in Gigi, so I was rather keen to have a look.

The audioguide was very clear and informative, and it was included in the price (12 euro).  (I've found that, in places where the audioguide is extra, they don't push it on you-- you have to ask!  Often, they are very worthwhile, so it might pay to ask.)

The portrait room leads to the "grand salon" -- but just in case it was not grand enough for a particular occasion, the walls between these rooms were hydraulically controlled such that they could be withdrawn into the floor... I found this mind-boggling, especially for a 19th century house.

One of the most impressive features, though, was the staircase, atypically placed at one end of the house rather than in the center.  If I recall correctly, the architect had been passed over in the selection of who was to design the Opera Garnier (featured in my previous blog!)-- and the first thing I thought when I saw the staircase was how it reminded me of the ones in the opera house.

There is a lot of art in the house, and serious art, e.g. multiple Rembrandts and Botticellis.  

·  There are a couple of great things about the Petit Palais -- it's a beautiful building (inside and out), and it's free! (the permanent collection, that is).  It's not the d'Orsay, the Louvre, or even the Orangerie, but I thought the quality of the collection was quite good, overall.

I encountered two impressive works by Courbet, Les Demoiselles des bords de la Seine (Young Ladies on the Banks of the Seine) and Le Sommeil (Sleep), which were scandalous in their day -- the first because the two women were seen as prostitutes (the one in the foreground is in her underclothes).

My guidebook described this museum as a good place to go if it's raining... I consider it worth a visit even if it's not raining!

·  I then went to see a "secret" garden that is just past the Grand Palais, at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue. 

·  One of my favorite sightings:  Across the Champs-Élysées from the Grand Palais, there is a park, and concealed behind a bunch of shrubbery, so you would barely know it was there, is a puppet theater, which still gives shows occasionally.  I am pretty sure that this is the puppet theater that was featured in Charade (which I have seen many times), and in La Grande Vadrouille, one of France’s all-time most popular movies.  

9th arrondissement

·  One more museum I'd like to include is the Musée de la Vie Romantique, in the 9th arrondissement, a little ways south of Montmartre.  Its beautiful setting and tea garden earn it a (deserved) spot in the book "Quiet Corners of Paris".  Much of it is devoted to George Sand, who lived in the area and attended salons there when it was a private home.  You can see plaster casts of Sand’s hand and Chopin’s arm (or is it the other way around)?

·  The Opera Garnier rivals Versailles in ornateness.  Normally, you can go into one of the boxes to see the theater; the ceiling was painted by Marc Chagall.   Unfortunately, when my sisters and I were there, the theater itself was closed for rehearsal.  (You'd think they'd charge less when the theater is closed, but no.)  But it is still worth the price to see the promenade, grand staircase, balconies, etc.

·  Just behind the Opera Garnier is the Galeries Lafayette, aka the mall of the gods—check out the atrium!  But our objective was not to shop but to take the escalator up to the roof and get some great views of Paris – for free!

10th arrondissement

My Lonely Planet guidebook lists the Canal St Martin as one of their top 15 Paris sights.  I might not go that far, but sections of it were nice, and it is becoming a pretty hip area.  After a while, however, the surroundings got a bit dreary (right around the Louis Blanc Metro station).  So I turned around at that point.  I thus cannot vouch for the more northerly sections.

12th arrondissement

·  The Promenade Plantée is an elevated walkway that runs through the 12th arrondissement of Paris.  I found it to be an unheralded (or under-heralded) marvel.  It's built on a viaduct that was formerly used for railway tracks.  Rather than being torn down (or, worse, just abandoned) when the trains went elsewhere, the viaduct was turned into an "elevated park".  It is more spacious, and much more elaborate, than I expected.  To find the entrance, you can go from the Place de la Bastille down Rue de Lyon (past the modern Opera House, about 0.5 km; it will become Rue Daumesnil), and look for the steps on the left.   After about 1.5 km, the promenade touches back down at a nice park.

·  In the same general area, but further south, is a very cute street, Rue Cremieux.  I had read about it on another blog, and I went looking for it, starting from the Sully Morland Metro stop.  On my way, I crossed a footbridge over the Bassin de l'Arsenal (which becomes the Canal St. Martin), and that was more scenic than I expected.  After a couple more blocks, you seriously lose the scenery-- until suddenly it pops up again in the form of this cute little street! 

 16th arrondissement

Known for the Trocadero (across the river from the Tour Eiffel) and wealthy neighborhoods!

·  The Parc de Bagatelle is a park-within-a-park in the Bois de Boulogne, on the west side of Paris.  It is one of the four official botanical gardens of Paris.  The park is known for its large rose garden, and there are several picturesque buildings, including a small chateau, which was built in 64 days following a bet between Marie Antoinette and the Comte d'Artois.  There are also several small lakes within the park.

Although the Parc can be reached by bus from the Porte Maillot Metro stop (bus 244), I didn't have to do that because my landlady Claire picked me up at a Metro station near her home and drove me there.  There is an entrance fee of about 5-6 euro between June and October.  The park is known for its elegant gardens as well as its resident peacocks--  And there were also lots of feral cats!   But they seem to get along quite well with the peacocks.

They appeared healthy and were pretty mellow for feral cats -- I was able to pet one of them.  We met a woman in the parking lot who tends to the colony, and she told Claire that there were about 50 cats (!), each has a name, and each has been vaccinated (I don't know whether they had been neutered—I would hope so).  A second woman who was with her was considering adopting one of the cats.

18th arrondissement

Known for the Montmartre neighborhood, Sacre-Coeur, le Moulin Rouge, etc.  These areas get pretty crowded.  The steps in front of Sacre-Coeur are notorious for scammers, but both times I have been there the police presence kept that under control.   I actually approached it from the rear by taking a scenic walk through the neighborhood.

Abbesses is the 2nd deepest Metro station, after Buttes-Chaumont, in the city; it has an elevator, while many Metro stations don't even have escalators.  I took the stairs back down on my return, and it was at least 14 flights, so they need the elevator.  The stairwell is decorated with Montmartre-themed illustrations.

I found the Montmartre museum a bit underwhelming -- lots of old postcards, lesser known paintings, and memorabilia.  I was interested in the history of the area, but a lot of the postcards were hard to see in their cases... Perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood (and the fact that the audioguide did not work very well didn't help).  I did appreciate, however, a great cat painting by Steinlen, who did many cat posters that you would probably recognize. 

19th arrondissement

·  There are a number of interesting things to see in and around the Parc Des Buttes Chaumont.
There is a very nice view (of Sacre-Coeur) from the colonnade in the Parc, but the path to the viewpoint was closed when I visited in September.  There seemed to be some stability problems.

·  There is an interesting neighborhood of little winding streets just west of the park (Rue Georges Lardennois, etc.).  I had read about this neighborhood in a blog post, and the blogger described (1) an even better view of Sacre Coeur, (2) a vineyard, and (3) a community garden.  However, at the time, (1) was obscured by a large construction crane, and while we were able to get a good look at (2) and (3), they were not open to the public.

·  On the eastern side of the Parc Des Buttes Chaumont is yet another charming neighborhood of little streets!  But first we went to look at an orthodox church near the northeastern corner of the park-- it's hidden from the main road, so you have to go down a little side street (off of Rue de Crimée) to find it. 

Charming neighborhood number two has with tiny short side streets called "villas" (Villa Rimbaud, Villa Paul Verlane, Villa Claude Monet, etc.).  We found the ones off of Rue Miguel Hidalgo to be the most picturesque.  You can also find the three-way intersection of Rue de la liberté, Rue de l’égalité, and Rue de la fraternité.

20th arrondissement

·  I went to the Parc de Belleville because I had heard there were feral cats there!  It's also a nice park to wander around in.  It's built on a hillside, so there are good views at the top.  
Much of the park is more densely wooded, with a network of paved paths going through the trees.  I was beginning to despair of seeing kitties when suddenly I saw a group of about six, being fed by a nice lady who was clearly their 'person'.  I could not really approach them, but she was petting them and getting flops and head-butts.  They all looked happy and healthy.  

·  During my visit to the Cimitière du Père LachaiseI used Rick Steve's guidebook to locate specific markers.  It was a tremendous help, because some of these would be hard to find just using the dots on the official map-- and there's a lot of ground to cover, up and down hills sometimes, on bumpy cobblestones.  (I wonder if someone has mapped out GPS coordinates of the more sought-after markers?)

·  Before going to the cemetery, I checked out another couple of locations from the book "Quiet Corners of Paris".  Apparently some of the outlying arrondissements contain what were once little villages that have been swallowed by the city.  So you have a few quaint little spots surrounded by less-quaint areas.  Passage des Soupirs (Passage of Sighs) did not live up to its name, but I was pleased with Campagne à Paris (the Countryside in Paris).  This little neighborhood is not included in the “Paris Mapguide” book, but you can find it by googling Rue Irénée Blanc.  It is near the Porte de Bagnolet Metro stop.

My sisters and I later visited another 20th arrondissement spot from "Quiet Corners", la Cimitiere de Charonne, when we made another trip to Pere Lachaise.  Perhaps the area has not been maintained well, but none of us considered it to be worth the detour.
  
Multiple destinations:

·  For a nice, cheap tour, catch the number 69 bus at dusk, since it goes past many significant landmarks that are lit up at night, including, at the terminus, the Tour Eiffel.  So, you get a nice tour for the price of a Metro ticket (or actually two tickets, since you have to get off at the terminus and get back on again to return).  We waited for the bus near St. Paul's Church in the Marais. 

·  I also took a ride at sunset on the "Batobus", which had a stop fairly close to my location.  The disadvantage is that it makes a lot of stops, but that also means that you have more time to chit-chat and more time to admire some of the scenery at the stops, most notably the Tour Eiffel. 



Some day trips from Paris

·  Auvers-sur-Oise is a small town north of Paris which once attracted many Impressionist painters, including Van Gogh, who spent the last 70 days of his life there.  There is a good writeup in Rick Steve’s guide. 

The first step in getting there is straightforward; you take the RER (line C) to Pontoise, which is not far from Auvers.  Then you can catch a bus in front of the Pontoise train station.  We managed to find the right bus, but it was a little tricky.  Also, the stops on the bus are not announced, nor are they posted, and the signs on the stops themselves are difficult to read from inside the bus.  A taxi may be better, unless you already know where you are going.

·  At the urgings of friends, I finally made a trip out to Giverny to see Monet's home and gardens.  I took the all-public-transit route, which is more complicated than a tour bus, I suppose, but generally cheaper.  I first caught a city bus, at the crack of dawn [in September], from the Jardin du Luxembourg to the Gare St Lazare (nice view of the Opera Garnier in the early morning rays of the sun), then a train to Vernon (about $28 round trip), then a shuttle bus to Giverny (about $9 round trip).  So all told, including the Metro trip home, about $40.  You can buy your train ticket at the train station, or any of the other "grand ligne" stations (i.e. Gare de Lyon, Gare de Montparnasse, etc.)  I did that a couple of days in advance so I wouldn't have to deal with it the day of the trip. 

I also bought my ticket to Giverny online to avoid standing in line.  (You have to print it out and bring it with you.)

I was glad I had read up about Giverny in Rick Steve's guide book, since he tells you exactly where to catch the "official" shuttle bus at the Vernon train station.  Otherwise, one might fall for the much less comfortable and more expensive one that meets you as soon as you walk out the door.  He also pointed out that, if the return bus fills up before you get to it, you'll have to wait for the next one, which could be a couple of hours later (or get a taxi).  I was a little concerned about that, but it turned out not be a problem-- there were two buses waiting, and we filled up only one of them.  I guess late September is the off-season.

...which was good, because it was not very crowded!  I've heard that the crowds can be very bad in the summer.  The flowers may be better in the summer, but they are not bad at all in early fall.  

·  Now on to Versailles:  Don't go there on a Tuesday during tourist season!  I had to get that out of the way.  The guide book warned me, but scheduling constraints and the weather forecast compelled us to go on Tuesday.  I eventually found myself thinking, does having the site closed for one day (Monday) create such a pent-up demand that people come swarming out there on Tuesday?  --Of course, maybe the crowds were not that much out of the ordinary, for late May.  My sister Susan had been to Versailles in October (not sure what day of the week), and she said the crowds were much, much less then.

The C5 branch of RER line C goes right to the town of Versailles, and the chateau is very easy to get to on foot from the RER station.

Normally, the gardens are free.  (We were there on a "spectacle day", meaning the fountains were running (part of the time) and there was music every once in a while, so we had to pay extra.)  So, you can go into the gardens (or to the "hamlet" way out in back, or to the Petit Trianon, though you will have to pay) without waiting in that long security line in front.  However, if you go into the chateau (after waiting in the long line) and then go into the gardens, you cannot go back into the chateau without waiting in the big line again!  We made that mistake, but, fortunately, by the time we got back to it, the big line had shrunk considerably.

Back to the crowds:  What was truly amazing was that we went into the main chateau during the afternoon, after the crowds had greatly subsided, and it was still so packed that we could barely see anything in the rooms.  You couldn't really pause for very long, either; we got herded through like sheep/cattle/take your pick.

There was some breathing room in the Hall of Mirrors.

·  [not really an all-day trip:]  When the Tour Montparnasse was constructed in 1973, people were so distressed by its effect on Parisian skylines that skyscrapers were henceforth not permitted within the city limits (i.e. inside the Boulevard Peripherique).  The primary skyscraper-containing business district in the Paris metropolitan area is La Defense, which is west of the city.  The district is named after a statue, La Défense de Paris, which is a memorial to soldiers who died in the Franco-Prussian War.  I managed never to see this statue when I visited the area (at the suggestion of my friend Marilynd, after she had returned to the US).  The first thing I saw when I climbed up out of the bus/Metro station* was an enormous and unique office building! called La Grande Arche de la Defense.  According to my guide book, Notre Dame could fit underneath it.

Facing back towards the city, the building to the left is the Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies (CNIT), which is the "the largest unsupported concrete span enclosed space in the world" (Wikipedia).  There is some impressive public art in the area, including L'araignée rouge (The Red Spider) by Alexander Calder.

*The station is at the western terminus of Metro line 1.  La Defense is in Zone 3 of the Metro system, but you can still get there using a standard Metro ticket.  Technically, these cover just Zones 1-2, but you can always ride to the end of the Metro line you're on, even if it's in Zone 3.  I was on the bus, so the same rule must apply there.


·  [not easy to get to by public transit:]  The town of Saint-Cloud is just across the Seine (west) from Boulogne-Billancourt, which itself is just across the Seine (west) from Paris (the Seine does a lot of twisting around west of Paris).  My landlady and her husband like to take long walks in the Parc de Saint-Cloud, and after seeing it, I can certainly see why.  In fact, Wikipedia says that it is "considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe" (though they don't give a citation...).  The gardens were originally designed by Andre Le Notre, who also designed the gardens at Versailles.  There was a chateau here until the late 1800's.  It was heavily damaged in 1870, during the war with Prussia, and razed about 20 years later.

I expect that if this park were a bit more accessible from Paris, it would attract more tourist traffic. As it is, the closest Metro stop is Pont de Saint Cloud (the end of line 10), and it's about a 25-minute, not very straightforward walk from there (according to Google maps -- I didn't actually do it). There is a St Cloud tramway stop that is a bit closer, but most tourists are not that familiar with the tramway.  (I found it easy to use; it uses the same tickets as the Metro and bus.  You can't transfer from the Metro, though; you have to use a new ticket.)

  
·  [not a famous attraction:]  I was encouraged by one of my French teachers and by a fellow traveler to visit Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a town west of Paris, while I was in Paris.  It is a lovely town with much to see, including a castle which now houses an archaeology museum, and extensive gardens surrounding the castle.  It is also the birthplace of Louis XIV.

The town is easy to get to-- I took the RER A line from the Opera Metro station, and it cost about 3-4 euro each way.  (It helps that I have a chip-and-PIN credit card for buying tickets from the machines in the Metro stations.)  You do have to make sure you're getting on the right branch of the A line, but that is usually not hard to do; there are signs near the tracks that have the destination stops lit up.

It is a nice route, crossing the Seine several times as it undulates back and forth west of Paris.  We passed through a town named Le Vesinet that must be quite posh, judging from the large, elegant houses with yards that I saw right near the train tracks!

The castle and gardens are right there when you exit the RER station in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
To the west there is a large terraced area from which you can look down onto the Seine, and beyond to La Defense (the skyscraper district west of Paris).  Inside the castle is the museum of archaeology, which is worth visiting if you have the time.

I would have liked to visit a building I had seen illustrated in the architecture museum in Paris -- the Centre de Congres St-Leger, on the Rue de la Croix de Fer, which resembles a small chateau and has a large mirrored surface encircling it, like a moat!  However, I was a little tired, and it was too far to walk.  So I just cruised around the town a little bit, then it was back to the RER.  Because Saint-Germain-en-Laye is the end of the line, returning is easy-- all the trains go back to Paris.